Monday, 30 November 2015

Christchurch post earthquake

After all the perfection, peace and beauty of the last two weeks, we felt that before we went home we had to go and visit South Island's main city of Christchurch to understand the other side of things. The centre of the city and the eastern suburbs were badly affected by an earthquake in February 2011. 185 people were killed, making it New Zealand's second most destructive disaster.  It was one of several quakes experienced in the city both before and after that date.

Visiting the area today was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life - and how long it takes to rebuild after destruction. The most famous building, the city's Victorian Cathedral, remains fenced off amid discussions about its future and the damage is clear. Indeed, it's hard to think how it can be saved.


In the four streets in the centre of the town, almost half the buildings were badly damaged and have since been demolished or are condemned. Everywhere we looked as we walked around, there were scars where buildings had once stood and others were being carefully demolished. The noise of cranes and machinery was constant.

                                   
      

But amidst all the destruction, there were heartening signs of the rebuild. An art project funded by the City Council has encouraged many New Zealand artists to create pieces of street art especially for exhibition in the area around the cathedral.
          
             Installations and a mural  on boarding around the cathedral

'Planted Whare' an installation by Chris Heaphy, who is of Ngai Tahu Maori and European ancestry, was constructed in steel girders and covered in baskets planted with flowers. It was my favourite for its colour and its feelings of optimism and protection. Walking inside, it offered a cocoon of much needed safety.

          Call Me Snake by Judy Miller, one of New Zealand's foremost painters.

Each of the works - and there were several more that I've not shown - were a powerful expression of a positive future amongst the rubble, but the whole was most sobering, nonetheless. It is hard to see how the government's target of a complete rebuild by 2018 can possibly be met.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Chasing Mount Cook

Just when we think our trip to New Zealand can't get any better, this beautiful country surprises us all over again.

We have been chasing the elusive Mount Cook for much of our stay here. It is frequently shrouded in cloud and very difficult to see.

Last night though, we found ourselves staying in a bed and breakfast home stay at the foot of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in Fox Glacier township, on the west coast of South Island. Called Reflections, even on our arrival in the rain yesterday evening, the property lived up to its name. It had a lovely garden with an ornamental pond which reflected everything around it.

Then the pleasure was complete when we woke up this morning to gloriously clear weather and those two mountains complete and visible and perfectly reflected in bright sunlight in our host's pond.


                                    

We moved further up the coast to Hokitika during the day and then this evening, on the beach at sunset we saw them again, gentle silhouettes against an orange sky.

        

        

Following advice, in the twilight, we walked over the road to see gloworms in a dark rocky dell surrounded by trees. They increased in number and brightness as the light levels fell until there were hundreds of them all around us, fine points of blueish light in the gloom.

Surely tomorrow really can't get any better?
   

  

Friday, 27 November 2015

Fences, sheep and rusty huts

I have a weakness for dilapidated machinery and abandoned buildings. Here in New Zealand where there seem to be few old stone structures, most of the old farm buildings appear to be made of corrugated iron. They rust most artistically and I've had a lot of amusement photographing them and their contents, together with some made of wood - and of course, I've photographed sheep. This post then is a right old miscellany.

A tin store just ready to fall down somewhere in central New Zealand 

       

Sheep outside our window at Omaha Downs sheep station near Twizel and a glimpse of Mount Cook through the clouds in the distance.

       

and a rusty old tractor on the same farm.

       

A fence whose location I can't now remember.

       

A boat store near the lake at Queenstown 
   
      

Tonight's offering just down the road in Fox Glacier on the west coast after a wonderful long drive over the Haast pass ... a rusty building and sheep...

      

    


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Coast, animals and thoughts of distance

Now we are down on the south coast of South Island New Zealand where it's wonderfully quiet and unspoilt - one of the almost forgotten parts of the world - and beautiful. There are lengths of wonderful sandy beaches and it's warm (we've been extraordinarily lucky). In Europe that would spell major holiday resort. Here there is no one about, almost no traffic on the roads and a deep sense of tranquility.

        

Last evening we went to a tiny cove at Nugget Point to look for the rare yellow eyed penguins which come ashore around twilight after a day's fishing out at sea. This species of small penguin is the most endangered in the world with only around 160 pairs in total. We saw four individuals swimming through the surf and preening themselves on the beach. My photo was taken on maximum zoom, in wind and in the half light, so I make no apologies for its quality.

       

This morning, we walked out to the lighthouse on the same headland, a beautiful walk all along the cliffs on a warm sunny day. We saw spoonbills nesting on a rock ...

        

And, greatest pleasure of all, twenty or so seals playing in the waves and sunbathing on the beach far below us ...

        

Further along the coast, we stopped for lunch and came upon a large bull sea lion (he was not a pretty sight) sleeping right across our path to the sands.

        

Standing watching the penguins coming out of the surf last night, we were suddenly so conscious of our distance from home. We were just as far away as it's possible to be and still stand on dry land. Looking south as we were doing, it would be next stop Antarctica, across the Southern Ocean, a vast area of deserted sea, without shipping and with so many storms.

        
    
Distances seem enormous here ...
 
    

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Lakes and shades of blue

Near Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain yesterday The lakes are beautiful and extraordinary shades of blue fed by the glacial streams which carry fine silt.

First of Lake Tepako and wild lupins ...


Then a small lake fed by a glacier and chalky white, hardly blue at all.


Those boats were waiting to take us up to the base of the glacier ... and more photos, many more.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Travelling in the pink

For this Roy post, I've collected together pink images from my travel photos. Some are subtle, some are strong in colour ... and one is unbelievable, but I haven't faked it - truly ...

First of all, many different pinks spotted in Singapore (much bright oriental colour) ... in Chinatown 

                                    

Shops in the old part of the city ...

      

   A poster advertising the company our host works for...
        
                                    

  And gentle pink chrysanthemums in the Gardens by the Bay ...

  

Then in Australia, on Sydney's Darling quay ...

    

The Sydney skyline at sunset ...

    

... and last of all, this extraordinary view of Uluru (Ayers Rock) near sunset. The sun's rays were filtered through fine cloud, apparently quite a common occurrence ... and it really was this colour!

     

We are very sad to be leaving this beautiful country tomorrow, but the delights of South Island New Zealand await us. As we are meeting up with American friends, there may be less time to post.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Travelling amusements and illusions shattered ... and restored

Lots of things have amused me in the rush and bustle of Sydney. I have just a few to share here.

As we walk around, we are inevitably passed by young (mostly) joggers with fitness on their minds and timing devices strapped to their arms to prove it. In the Botanical Gardens we came to a steep set of stairs up which they ran - fast. We climbed slowly at walking pace and paused regularly to draw breath as they overtook us. Where have the years gone?

                                     

There are exercise stations in all the areas of open space and beside the beaches. This young man demonstrated his fitness at one on a rainy Bondi Beach (illusions shattered - it does rain here) with impressive handstands which he repeated so I could take a photograph.

                                     

This little boy chased a white ibis along the quay (not a wise idea with that beak) till his mother warned him of dire consequences.
       

Amid the showers two days ago, I spied graffiti on Bondi Beach (wishful thinking on that day) ...

                              

    ... and round the corner, something different ... Both entertaining but neither would challenge the skill of Banksy ...
     

Then today, we returned to walk the coastal path from Bondi to Coogee, a distance of 5 km. This time, it was warm, the sun shone and the beautiful people and skilful surfers were out. Illusions were restored!
      






 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Looking up in Sydney

It is impossible to walk around the centre of this wonderful city without looking up. In every direction in Sydney, there are extraordinary modern buildings defining the skyline and marking the vertical, their plate glass walls reflecting their neighbours. I will admit to having taken hundreds of photos in different light conditions and from different angles. I include but a tiny sample of those which most took my eye.

       
 
       

       

       

If this trip has taught me nothing else, it's how much I love good modern buildings and especially the design elements and details to be found within them. I feel sure that when we return at the end of this trip, I'll look anew at those I see closer to home.


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Museum of Contemporary Art , Sydney 1

         

A rainy morning, the first of our trip, sent us to a much anticipated venue yesterday: The Museum of Contemporary Art here in Sydney. This gallery shows post war art by Australian artists. My researches on the internet before our visit had suggested a real pleasure awaited and we were not disappointed. Even the presentation of the sign at the entrance amused us.

We knew to expect much Aboriginal art in the collection which was certainly the case. In fact, there was so much of interest across a wide range of work that I give only a small sample here while I compose my thoughts about the rest of the collection.

For now, I've chosen beautiful coiled bowls from Arnhem Land, Northern Territories, which were grouped on plinths in the centre of one of the galleries.

        
                A palm coil weave basket by Alice Gundaburrburr, of the Kune Dangbon people.

        
               Another palm coil basket this time by Mary Markamurra, of the Kunwinjku people.

        
Perhaps my favourites because of their unusual structure, were a large dyed pandanus palm coil weave basket by Lena Rungwarnga of the Kune Dangbon people which took two years to make and featured a larger outer rim joined to the main body of the put thus ...

        

   and last of all ...
  
        
             a pandanus palm coil weave dish with a handle by Munduritji of the Kunwinjku people.

Each of these was exquisitely made and many were dyed in the subtle earth colours you see here and we spent a long time enjoying them.




Sydney Opera House lit up in solidarity

Sydney Opera House lit up in sympathy with the French nation at today's horrific events ...


      ...so many sobering thoughts ... and solidarity conveyed by such a simple act.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Looking down - shoes, pavements and other amusements

I so often look up when I'm out and about in a city. I love good modern urban architecture and find many high rise buildings most inspiring. Today, however, I decided to look down, with surprising results. No other explanation is needed really!

       

       

       

       

       

... and my favourite of all (how I wish I could wear them!) ...

                            

And I'm sure you can guess where we were ...

       


       

What a wonderful, vibrant city Sydney is ... and we have a week here.